Your kitchen is the center of your bustling household and the setting for countless meals, crafts, projects, conversations, drinks , and happy memories. But what might seem like a catch-all space is also an opportunity to showcase your style and personality. Except for one problem: The mere thought of a full-fledged kitchen remodel can inspire more dread than a sink full of dirty dishes after a dinner party. We're here to help you take the plunge. Flip through some of our favorite kitchen transformations, featuring design tips from real-life homeowners and secrets from the pros. With these smart renovation strategies , you'll be back in front of your stove in no time (and admiring that backsplash you've been obsessing over while you stir).
Before: An Entertainer's Space
When Nadie NeJame, a real estate agent in Washington, D.C., decided to update the kitchen in her 1914 Foursquare Colonial, she knew exactly how to relay her vision to her interior designer, Christopher Patrick. "What I craved was something classic—nothing super trendy that would go out of style in 10 years. And I wanted white. If you can see the dirt, you know it's time to clean it!"
After: An Entertainer's Space
The new island, which doubles as a buffet, features a statement paint color and walnut top, making it the focal point of the room. Inspired by historic homes, NeJame selected handmade glazed subway tile, marble countertops, and more traditional Shaker-style cabinet doors with bead detailing.
Before: Right-Size Remodel
Before its renovation, this Charleston kitchen lacked functionality with its awkwardly placed refrigerator and jutting island, which disrupted the flow of the space. Although the homeowners considered moving, they ultimately decided to overhaul their home's trouble spot.
After: Right-Size Remodel
With the help of an architect and interior designer, the homeowners reconfigured their kitchen entirely. They straightened out the island, creating a more functional space, and added a pantry. They also ditched the upper cabinets, lightened the walls with fresh paint, and designed a refrigerator to mimic a piece of rich wood furniture. A Viking range in a custom shade of blue—and surrounding lower cabinets in the same hue—added a bold pop of color, taking this white kitchen from average to extraordinary.
Before: The Modern Family Kitchen
Lynn and Bobby Boland felt confined in their 1970s Missouri kitchen. They wanted a complete overhaul—without adding on to the house. Designer Amie Corley took on the challenge.
After: The Modern Family Kitchen
Corley knocked down a wall of awkward cabinetry to unite the kitchen, dining room, and living room into one large, free-flowing area. She raised the ceiling to the roofline, allowing in more natural light, and replaced the tile with walnut flooring. Bold cabinet colors , paired with black countertops on the wraparound and white marble on the island, gave this functional kitchen a modern twist.
Before: Family-Friendly Breakfast Area
Before the renovation, this quaint breakfast room was actually the family's den. If the fireplace doesn't give it away, the TV should.
After: Family-Friendly Breakfast Area
Crisp white paint refreshed the fireplace and bookshelves, and the dated mantel was replaced with a modern mirror. Blank slate complete, this breakfast nook was enlivened with a graphic chevron rug and Roman shades made from a large blue-and-white floral print. Quirky accessories, like the concrete truck on the shelf and the framed ampersand, add a personalized touch.
Before: Summer Rancher Kitchen
Oddly positioned cabinets, a light fixture better suited to a pool table, and ancient appliances added up to one kitchen desperately in need of a makeover. The curved peninsula was a dead giveaway that this space hadn't been designed in the modern era.
After: Summer Rancher Kitchen
To avoid relocating the plumbing, the homeowner kept the kitchen's original footprint, splurging instead on new cabinetry, appliances, and fixtures. A classic subway tile backsplash gives the space a crisp finish, while open shelving shows off pretty dishes and colorful cookbooks. In lieu of a bulky refrigerator, a two-drawer version is tucked away in the wet bar area, just across from the kitchen, saving space in the main work area.
Before: Cozy Breakfast Nook
The breakfast nook had plenty of light—in fact, the high ceilings were one of the features that attracted the homeowners—but it lacked the warmth and coziness you'd want while enjoying a cup of coffee. A low-hanging light fixture obstructed the space's sight lines.
After: Cozy Breakfast Nook
Designer Suzanne Kasler placed slipcovered armchairs on one side of the metal bistro table and draped colorful curtains above the benches. A new chandelier brings elegance to the petite nook, which now invites leisurely breakfasts and cups of coffee.
Before: Lake House Kitchen
The tucked-away kitchen in this mid-century lake house was too dark and outdated for Southern Living prop stylist, Heather Chadduck. But she knew it had good bones, despite the cave-like vibes.
After: Lake House Kitchen
Chadduck brightened the space with a backsplash of Carrara marble subway tiles and installed a grid of dimmable light fixtures, creating versatile lighting for any occasion. To emphasize the gray tones of the floor, she chose durable, hand-poured concrete countertops. Painting the paneling and beams white added airiness where there had once been heaviness.
Before: A Fresh Take on Tradition
When Caroline and Andy Roeser purchased their Houston home, they knew they loved the neighborhood. But their home's dreary galley kitchen? Not so much. The couple wasted no time renovating it to become a sunny, open space.
After: A Fresh Take on Tradition
This makeover started with a U-shaped layout and two new windows for a more functional, light-filled space. The designers decked out the kitchen with classically beautiful components: white cabinets, a gray island, a subway tile backsplash, and marble countertops. Two large-scale lanterns in a verdigris finish add polish and a playful punch of color.
Before: Historic Single House Kitchen
The outdated kitchen in this historic Charleston home looked dark and dreary and didn't fit the homeowners' vision: They craved period details, not slatted cabinetry and black appliances.
After: Historic Single House Kitchen
The owners wanted their kitchen to look like it had been added on in the early 20th century. They chose shiplap walls, eliminated upper cabinets, installed mahogany countertops, and finished the space with brass cabinet hardware and sink fixtures. After ripping up the 1950s flooring, they laid down pine on the diagonal, sealed and primed it, then applied two coats of high-gloss gray paint.
Before: Neutral Breakfast Room
This nook needed a complete overhaul. From the odd chandelier to the dark furniture, everything about the eat-in area felt heavy and out of style.
After: Neutral Breakfast Room
Transforming this dim room into a sunny nook meant completely starting over. Birmingham interior designer Lindsey Meadows chose a glossy table that reflects light and installed a contemporary candelabra. She surrounded the table with rustic chairs and an upholstered bench and created dimension with airy linen draperies.
Before: Bold Redo
The traditional kitchen in her 1930s Houston home didn't suit designer and blogger Bailey McCarthy's love of bright, bold colors. From the blank canvas of a backsplash to the white-on-white walls and cabinets, the finishings were nondescript and hardly eye-catching.
After: Bold Redo
McCarthy, owner of bedding company Biscuit Home, and her husband installed new lower cabinets and revitalized the uppers with glass doors and brass hardware. To bring in the color she craved, they saturated the space in a deep, dark green with a glossy, durable finish. A collection of white dishes, the vintage-style La Cornue range, and a white subway tile backsplash bring neutral balance.
Before: Neutral Update
The kitchen layout fit the family's needs, but the color and accessories desperately needed an update. A stainless steel backsplash accentuated the large appliances, while petite pendant lights failed to bring the grandeur the space deserved.
After: Neutral Update
Although interior designer Lindsey Meadows kept the existing cabinetry, she managed to give the space a fresh new feel by changing the details. Soft gray paint on the cabinets matches the palette in the rest of the house, while a darkly-grouted subway tile backsplash provides stunning contrast. Meadows replaced the small pendants with two oversized globe lights and gave the barstools a facelift with simple slipcovers made of durable fabric.
Before: Crisp and Clean Remodel
About a year after moving into their Fayetteville, Arkansas, home, the owners were ready to update their French country kitchen, which was cluttered with fussy cabinetry, an excess of accessories, and a hanging pot rack. They brought in designer Melissa Haynes to refresh their kitchen without gutting it.
After: Crisp and Clean Remodel
Haynes simplified the space with clean, white cabinetry and extra storage in the island, before energizing it with green pops, like the celadon backsplash and the vibrant barstools. The quartz countertops and Sunbrella fabrics are durable enough to withstand family life for years to come.
Before: Lightened-Up Kitchen
This older home's classic charm was lost in a kitchen that didn't capitalize on the high ceilings and abundance of natural light. The warm-tone cabinetry clashed with the blue island, while the brick detailing over the oven dated the space.
After: Lightened-Up Kitchen
Designer Suzanne Kasler swapped in white Shaker-style cabinets and painted the walls the same serene color, yielding a fresh, airy look without changing the layout. Glass door fronts lighten the main wall, and the stately island's legs resemble a dining table, creating a central statement piece. To add texture to the monochromatic color scheme, Kasler installed white marble countertops and a white tile backsplash.
Before: Family-Friendly Kitchen
When Susan and Jeff Johnson purchased their four-bedroom cottage in Nashville, Tennessee, they wanted to modernize it, while maintaining its livability for their growing family. They teamed with designer Gen Sohr to liberate their kitchen from its dark cabinetry and boxy appliances.
After: Family-Friendly Kitchen
By removing the wall with a pass-through window, Sohr opened up the kitchen to the adjacent living area. The resulting space is airy and bright, with glass-front doors to counter the lack of natural light. The quartz countertops resemble marble, without the high price tag or costly maintenance, and the substantial island provides plenty of room for cooking, entertaining, and homework. Red metal stools and a blue trellis-print rug ensure this white space is anything but staid.
Before: Charming Farmhouse Kitchen
This cramped kitchen didn't work for Ashley Putnam and her husband, but they didn't want to add additional square feet to their home. The ceiling fan was an unsightly focal point, the stove was standalone, and the scalloped detailing on the cabinetry gave this kitchen the wrong kind of vintage vibes.
After: Charming Farmhouse Kitchen
The homeowners demolished their mudroom to add 200 square feet to the kitchen, then stripped the kitchen down to its studs. Against the sleek backdrop of white shelves and stainless steel appliances, they added a butcher-block island, which warms up the kitchen and softens the industrial edge.
Before: Style Revamp
The homeowner summarizes this space best: "The old kitchen was a mess," says Lindsey Ellis Beaty, who shares the home with her husband, Kevin, and their two boys. "There was a large piece of plywood in the middle of the floor where an island had once been, the refrigerator floated on an empty wall, and the black tile countertops felt dingy." After spending an entire year researching, compiling tear sheets, and planning the space, Lindsey devised a manageable renovation plan.
After: Style Revamp
After two years of living with a dreary kitchen in her otherwise sunny 1930s Birmingham home, it was finally time for Beatty to execute her vision. She chose soft neutrals for the cabinetry, a double-bowl farmhouse sink, and clear acrylic barstools, ordering all the materials in advance to avoid costly delays. By taking the cabinets to the ceiling, Beatty was able to add floating shelves for pretty dishes.
Before: French Flair
The existing 1980s-era kitchen was dark, awkwardly situated, and full of dated appliances. The fruit-tiled backsplash and the bland ceiling fan only emphasized how desperately this kitchen needed a makeover.
After: French Flare
Interior designer Melissa Ervin of Charleston, South Carolina, tore out the tile floor and replaced it with French antique oak. White painted cabinets topped with marble bring major class, and the rectangular table, which can serve as an island or a spot to eat, adds old-world character. A new range and custom hood make the once-empty center wall the new focal point of the room.
Before: Rustic Cottage Kitchen
After a hurricane flooded architect Wayne Good's 110-year-old Chesapeake Bay cottage, he seized the opportunity to design his dream fish-camp style kitchen in just over 150 square feet. Although the original heart-pine floors were worth salvaging, the rest of the space was unremarkable: insubstantial cabinets, exposed hinges, and old appliances.
After: Rustic Cottage Kitchen
Prior to renovation, the kitchen was on the opposite side of the room. An avid home cook, Good decided to relocate it and pack his kitchen with efficient, space-saving solutions inspired by restaurants. As a nod to the cottage's first owner, who used repurposed materials to build the home, he put the cottage's exterior siding on the kitchen ceiling, flipping it over to expose the richly-worn wood.
Before: Living Large in a Small Space
Even though this kitchen was part of a single-family home, it screamed "efficiency apartment." Cramped, completely cut off from the rest of the house, and oddly configured (with lots of unused space above the cabinets), this space needed to better maximize its small footprint.
After: Living Large in a Small Space
When remodeling, the homeowners had three goals: add as much storage as possible, create the illusion of space without adding a single square foot, and stick to the budget without sacrificing style. A galley layout and floor-to-ceiling cabinetry improved efficiency, and a simple, all-white look made the space seem bigger. Floating shelves created room for charming accessories, which draw from the cool hues of the curtains.
Before: Let There Be White
Cindy and Thomas Gallion's underwhelming Alabama rancher was in dire need of an enlightening experience. Even with the unstylish fluorescent light fixture looming overheard, the kitchen felt dark, with creamy cabinets, orangey wood, and a white refrigerator all competing for attention.
After: Let There Be White
The Gallions improved the floor plan's flow by taking down the two walls that framed the kitchen, opening it to the living room and family room. They also replaced a window with cabinetry and added a large, hardworking island for storage and function. The shiny finish of the subway tile gives some glimmer to all the white, while yellow chairs add a dose of cheerful color.
Before: Cohesive Breakfast Room
The original dining room had great natural light, but the arrangement was far too formal for the family's needs. With a heavy chandelier and a too-small table, the space was imbalanced and overly traditional.
After: Cohesive Breakfast Room
The formal dining room was replaced by a more casual, inviting spot for everyday family meals. A series of freestanding closets with upholstered doors make this the epitome of a multifunctional space: The center one opens to reveal a clever home office nook.
Before: Vintage Charm
When she first bought her home, Steele Marcoux admits that the 1920s Birmingham cottage was "blah." The builder-grade pendants and celery-green beadboard failed to capture the charm of the home's era.
After: Vintage Charm
Marcoux painted most surfaces gray or white to enliven outdated finishes and topped the counters with chinoiserie lamps found at a flea market. She mixed cherished hand-me-downs with modern appliances for a functional yet thoughtfully adorned kitchen, then added a final layer of vintage-inspired appeal with the fabric shade.
Before: Cohesive Kitchen
Shannon and Ted Holt were faced with a common dilemma: Their kitchen was sizable and recently updated, but it just didn't suit their style or tastes. The couple called on Birmingham designer Melanie Pounds, who suggested a few easy tweaks to make it a more cohesive, functional space for the family.
After: Cohesive Kitchen
Designer Melanie Pounds replaced the top cabinets with gorgeous open limestone shelving, where the Holts' most beautiful dishes flaunt their character. A metallic tile backsplash, modern pendant lights, a sculptural range hood, and a trio of conversation-piece barstools complete the renovated kitchen's look.
Before: Classic Kid-Friendly Kitchen
Southern Living Editor Jessica Thuston's family's lackluster kitchen hadn't been touched since the 1960s. It was a beige wonderland, with off-white cabinets, off-white tile, and appliances to match.
After: Classic Kid-Friendly Kitchen
Although she loved the size and basic layout, Thuston said that "everything else had to go." She gave the room modern-day appeal by replacing the windows, relocating the fridge, and eliminating upper cabinets. She saved on custom-built cabinets by installing stock cabinets , but splurged on natural limestone counters for a luxe look. The painted grid pattern on the floor adds an unexpected touch to the mostly white space.